Florida schools roundup: Tax votes, school schedule, AP courses and more

Tax initiatives: About a third of Florida residents face increased taxes if voters in seven counties approve initiatives Tuesday to raise money for their school districts. Officials in those districts say the state put them in the position of asking for voter help by underfunding mandates for school security. “The legislative mandates were substantially unfunded,” says Alberto Carvalho, superintendent of the Miami-Dade County School District. “It has put significant fiscal pressure on the district.” Bloomberg. In Miami-Dade, a four-year property tax hike would generate an extra $232 million a year, and 88 percent of the money generated would go for teacher raises. In Palm Beach County, a four-year increase in property taxes would bring in about $150 million more a year, and the district has pledged 50 percent of it to improve teacher pay. Miami Herald. Palm Beach Post.

Post-hurricane schedule: The Bay County School District’s plan to make up the three-plus weeks of class time students lost to Hurricane Michael is approved by the Florida Department of Education. The district’s schools will be 10 to 14 minutes longer every day and schools will be in session on four days that had been set aside as holidays or teacher work days. Already scheduled time off over Thanksgiving, Christmas and spring break will not change. Half the district’s schools reopen today, and the district’s goal is to have the rest open by Nov. 13. Panama City News Herald. New bus stop schedules are issued for Bay County students, many of whom may be attending a different school starting today. The district is also handing out reflective items for students who will now be going home in the dark. WMBB. Panama City News Herald. School officials in Calhoun and Jackson counties had to get creative to reopen schools last week. WFSU. Eighty Florida students displaced by the hurricane are attending southeastern Alabama schools. Associated Press. Gov. Rick Scott is asking the Florida Department of Education to send additional funds to districts so schools damaged by the hurricane can be rebuilt to withstand storms. Gradebook.

AP courses: Orange County educators are pushing the expansion of Advanced Placement courses as a way to challenge students and allow them to earn college credit. But that emphasis is drawing criticism from other educators and some parents who think too many students are taking courses they don’t want to take and struggling to keep up. “It was just overwhelming him,” says Robin Pappas, about her son’s first AP class as an Apopka High School freshman. “He would have two to three hours of homework every night with just that class.” The push across the state, in partnership with the College Board, which runs the AP program, has resulted in the number of Florida students taking AP exams from 63,000 in 1998 to almost 400,000 this year. Orlando Sentinel. Scores from Orange County schools. Orlando Sentinel.

Education and politics: The education policies of the candidates for governor, Republic Ron DeSantis and Democrat Andrew Gillum, intersect in one place: Expanding career and technical education. But convincing Florida parents and students to consider that option won’t be easy because they still cling to the college-for-all mentality, according to Shelly Bell, director of Lively Technical Center in Tallahassee. Florida Phoenix. Education is the most important issue in the Florida election, according to a survey of Florida leaders. Miami Herald.

School security: The state’s new free app to anonymously report suspicious activities in schools has generated 148 tips since it was launched Oct. 22, according to state officials. FortifyFl was created by the Florida Attorney General’s Office, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Department of Education as a response to the shootings deaths of 17 students and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on Feb. 14. WJXT. New security systems are expected to be installed in 28 Lee County elementary and middle schools by the end of the year. The systems will allow staff to see who is at the locked front door of the school, and decide whether to buzz them in. Fort Myers News-Press.

Turnaround schools: Manatee County school officials say they’re busy working on boosting the grades for two struggling schools. Blanche H. Daughtrey Elementary and G.D. Rogers Garden-Bullock Elementary have each received grades of D from the state for the past three years, and must improve to a C to avoid being closed, be turned into a charter school or be run by an outside operator. Both schools have chosen the outside operator option if it becomes necessary, and the district must select an operator for each by January. Neither school has publicly released a quarterly “state of the school” report. Bradenton Herald.

Charter schools: This week the Pasco County School Board will consider extending the contract of one charter school and approving the application of another. Pasco’s oldest charter school, Dayspring Academy, is asking for a 15-year contract extension. And the Clearwater-based Plato Academy wants to open its second school in the county next fall for 288 students in kindergarten through 3rd grade, with plans to expand to K-8 within five years and enroll 728 students. It is asking for a five-year contract. Gradebook.

Association severed: The Florida Association of Christian Colleges and Schools has severed its relationship with the Nation Christian Academy in Port St. Lucie after the CEO of the school was recorded profanely denouncing a school basketball player who wanted to transfer. “It’s unacceptable,” says FACCS executive director Howard Burke. “We have a statement of faith that we ask our members to sign, and it’s not a one-time deal. (The recording is) a violation of everything we stand for. The fact they have him (Mike Woodbury) as CEO shows a change in philosophy.” TCPalm.

Notable deaths: Clarence Givens, a longtime teacher and counselor in Pinellas County schools and a civil rights activist who fought for equal treatment for black students, has died in St. Petersburg at the age of 90. Tampa Bay Times.

Educator honored: Tracy Bowers, who was the principal at Wewahitchka Elementary School last year before moving to a district job, is one of nine principals honored for their leadership from Florida TaxWatch, a nonprofit public policy research institute. Port St. Joe Star.

School board elections: Previewing the races for the District 2, District 3 and District 6 seats on the Pinellas County School Board. Gradebook. Previewing the race for the District 3 seat on the Hernando County School Board. Gradebook. Previewing the District 5 race for the Clay County School Board. Florida Times-Union. Previewing the race for the District 5 seat on the Pasco County School Board. Gradebook. Previewing the race for the District 6 and District 1 seats on the Hillsborough County School Board. Gradebook. Previewing the races for the Lee County School Board. Fort Myers News-Press.

Districts’ properties: The Gulf Breeze City Council approves the sale of a 45-acre land parcel to the Santa Rosa School District for $1.9 million. “We need access and we need acreage, and we believe this property fulfills the need, and the amount of the property gives us an elementary school, middle school or combination,” Superintendent Tim Wyrosdick has said. Pensacola News Journal. The Volusia County School Board will consider the sale of two district properties at its meeting this week. A 78-acre parcel would bring in $6 million, and a 4-acre property another $1.8 million. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

School calendar: The Pasco County School Board will consider a 2019-2020 school year calendar that would have schools start Aug. 12 and end on May 27, with a full week off over Thanksgiving. Gradebook.

Wrongful death suit: Orange County School District attorneys are warning the parents of a boy beaten to death to drop the district from a wrongful death suit or risk being forced to pay the district’s legal fees. The boy, 15-year-old Roger Trindade, was killed on a Saturday night off school grounds, but the parents included the district in their suit because they allege it created “a zone of danger which encompassed Central Park by allowing gangs involving many of the defendants to exist, operate and proliferate in its schools.” Orlando Sentinel.

Sub turned murderer: The man who shot and killed two women at a Tallahassee yoga studio Saturday was a substitute teacher last year in the Volusia County School District. Scott Beierle, who also killed himself, had a reputation among Deltona Middle School students as being detached and lazy. “He just gave off a psychopath vibe, like someone crazy,” says a student who had Beierle as a sub in her 8th-grade history class about a dozen times. Tallahassee Democrat. Associated Press.

Grade dispute leads to murder: A 15-year-old Volusia County student is accused of strangling his mother after they argued about a D he got in a school subject. Deputies say Gregory Logan Ramos, a student at University High School in Orange City, strangled 46-year-old Gail Cleavenger and then, with the help of two friends, buried her under a fire pit at a nearby church. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Girl raped at school: A 16-year-old Lehigh Acres girl says she was raped twice by a caretaker at Central Pasco Girls Academy, an alternative school for troubled girls in Land O’Lakes. Willie Malik Jackson, 26, is charged with sexual battery of someone under custodial authority. Fort Myers News-Press.

Girl left on bus: A Miami-Dade County school bus driver is fired after leaving a sleeping 8-year-old girl in the bus. When she awoke, the girl, a 2nd-grader at ASPIRA Charter School in Miami, found herself alone in the bus yard. When she got off, she had to evade a guard dog, climb a fence and walk to a nearby school to ask for help. The driver was an employee of the Advance Bus Service. WSVN.

Teacher Baker-Acted: A Clay County teacher has been involuntarily committed under the Baker Act after he allegedly sent more than 50 threatening emails to other employees at McRae Elementary School in Keystone Heights. WJAX.

School threats: A 16-year-old student at Pine Ridge High School in Deltona is arrested and accused of threatening to shoot classmates. Daytona Beach News-Journal. A 14-year-old Okaloosa County student is arrested and accused of threatening to shoot up his Davidson Middle School bus. Northwest Florida Daily News. Eight months after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shootings, the Manatee County School District continues to get regular threats against schools. Bradenton Herald.

Opinions on schools: With the ascension of the Florida Citizens’ Alliance, the Sunshine State has become ground zero for an intensifying ideological battle taking place across the nation—one that has conservative groups wrestling for control over how climate science will be taught to American students. Sean Patrick Cooper. Daily Beast. Scores on the dreaded college readiness exam called the SAT came out last week, and they were no surprise: Florida’s performance was shameful. Florida’s education system has been under the control of Republicans since 1999. They have to own this one. Lauren Ritchie, Orlando Sentinel. Let facts guide the discussion of the way transgender students are treated by the Sarasota County School District. Tom Tryon, Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Student enrichment: Maddy Ball, a 17-year-old senior at Donna Klein Jewish Academy in Boca Raton, helped lead her school volleyball team into the regional finals while playing with a prosthetic right arm. She was born with her right arm extending just 3 inches past the elbow. Orlando Sentinel. A “garden of dreams” is now open at Howell L. Watkins Middle School in Palm Beach Gardens. The garden, complete with butterfly-attracting plants, will be tended by students. Palm Beach Post. The Jacksonville after-school program Communities in Schools is celebrating its 20th anniversary. It’s now in 22 schools. Florida Times-Union.

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BY NextSteps staff